Once enmeshed in legal and insurance finger pointing and questions about reimbursement, telehealth is flourishing in the era of Obamacare, cost cutting, and consumer-driven healthcare.
Telehealth will generate $2 billion in the US by 2018, Forbes reported. Worldwide, revenue for telehealth products and services is expected to reach $4.5 billion in four years, compared with $440.6 million in 2013, according to IHS Technology.
Sources of growth include busy individuals who prefer the convenience of a video, phone, or other virtual consultation, as well as healthcare providers that use telehealth to augment traditional care. Today, 42% of hospitals use telehealth, according to Health Affairs. Some employers offer telehealth as a benefit. Insurers increasingly incorporate this coverage to decrease the likelihood customers will unnecessarily (and expensively) visit an emergency room.
Two years ago, Online Care Group operated in only seven states, said Dr. Peter Antall, a pediatrician and medical director for the telehealth provider, in an interview. Today, the physician-owned organization serves patients and prescribes in 38 states and sees patients without prescribing in eight others -- growth he attributes, in part, to Obamacare and its focus on cost-cutting, population health, and patient experience.
"Ten years from now it won't even be called telehealth," says Dr. Antall. "It will no longer make sense for a consumer of a high-deductible plan to go to the ER for pink eye."
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